• Root still ‘living the dream’ as injury-hit England bid to level India series

    England captain Joe Root insists he is “still living my boyhood dream” despite his already injury-stricken side being dealt another blow ahead of the third Test against India at Headingley starting on Wednesday.

    Root’s men are 1-0 down in the five-match series after a 151-run defeat in the second Test at Lord’s and their task of drawing level was made more difficult when, on Monday, fast bowler Mark Wood was ruled out of this week’s match at the skipper’s Yorkshire home ground.

    Wood suffered a shoulder injury diving into an advertising hoarding saving a boundary at Lord’s and has now joined Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone among England’s sidelined quicks.

    Meanwhile, Ben Stokes will not be returning to the scene of his stunning match-winning century in a 2019 Ashes Test against Australia, with the star all-rounder still on a mental-health break.

    As for the batting, Root has been a lone shining light in a top order that has otherwise repeatedly failed to score runs during England’s current sequence of seven Tests without a win.

    At Lord’s, despite his magnificent first-innings 180 and a top score of 33 in the second innings, England were still dismissed for just 120 inside 52 overs on the last day.

    England, having dropped Dom Sibley, following the opener’s dismal run of low scores that has seen him average 19.77 in 10 Tests this year, are now set to promote Haseeb Hameed – who managed just nine runs in total on his international return at Lord’s – from three to partner Rory Burns at the top of the order.

    That would give England their 22nd different opening partnership since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, with the recalled Dawid Malan set to bat at first-wicket-down.

    For all the difficulties Test openers worldwide are experiencing – since 2017 the average first-wicket partnership around the globe is only 30.38 runs – India’s KL Rahul (129) and Rohit Sharma (83) shared a stand of 126 at Lord’s, a match where England were in the game until the last day.

    ‘Easy to stay positive’

    “I’m playing for England and I’m playing Test cricket,” Root said on Monday. “It’s quite easy to stay positive in that respect, I’m living my boyhood dream.

    “I’m constantly trying to remind myself of that as well, when we are having the odd tough day or things aren’t always going our way. When I was 10 years old I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do,” the 30-year-old added.

    England’s batsmen could do worse than follow the example of under-pressure India duo Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara.

    Rahane put a run of low scores behind him to make 61 in the second innings at Lord’s, with India effectively 28-3 when he came into bat after captain Virat Kohli was out.

    But a century stand with Pujara, whose 45 took 206 balls, helped repair the damage before an unbroken ninth-wicket partnership of 89 between Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah paved the way for victory.

    “It’s all about the contributions for the team,” said vice-captain Rahane, with India, after an injury-depleted side won a Test series in Australia earlier in 2021, on the verge of one of their best years.

    “Cheteshwar and I have been playing for a long time, we know how to handle pressure, we know how to handle certain situations.”

    Root said England would benefit from Malan’s “experience”, even though it is three years since the world’s top-ranked T20I batsman last played a Test, while hinting uncapped fast bowler Saqib Mahmood, a white-ball international but uncapped at this level, might replace Wood.

    England lost their way when bowling to Shami and Bumrah, with Root accepting India had managed the kind of verbal confrontations beloved by Kohli “better than us” at Lord’s.

    But former England captain Michael Vaughan said coach Chris Silverwood, now in charge of picking the side after Ed Smith’s post as national selector was abolished, had to take his share of responsibility.

    “Why was Silverwood not sending someone out on to the pitch, with a drink, asking Root what the hell was going on and getting him to change tactics?” wrote Vaughan on his Facebook page.

    © Agence France-Presse

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    Craig Lewis